Hendricks Home FurnishingsUCB Bank

   Top Stories
   Illinois State Fair
   AP MoneyWire
   Obit Listings
   Available Editions


  Subscribe Online
  Single Copy Outlets
  Advertise Online
  Place Ad Online
  Online Forms
  About Us

Contact Us 

     (217) 788-1300

     (217) 788-1330

     (217) 788-1440      delivery@sj-r.com

     (217) 788-1513      sjr@sj-r.com

     (217) 788-1487

A Copley Newspaper
Serving Central Illinois

Email Story       Print Story
Museum designer defends spending
One regret is lack of space for people waiting to get in

Published Wednesday, August 17, 2005

With the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum expecting its 300,000th visitor on Friday, exactly four months after opening, Bob Rogers should be pretty happy.

He is and he isn't.

Rogers, head of BRC Imagination Arts, the firm that designed the high-tech museum, says he's elated by the museum's popularity, which he said is exceeding even his expectations.

If there's one thing he'd go back and change, it's the small space for people waiting to enter. On busy days, museum visitors have lined up the entire length of the museum block on Sixth Street from Jefferson to Madison streets.

Rogers is a target of the Illinois Capital Development Board's efforts to recoup about $15 million from museum contractors, news the Chicago Tribune revealed Sunday. Rogers' firm, according to the CDB, the state's construction agency, is responsible for up to $10 million in excess costs.

Rogers and state officials acknowledge that their lawyers are discussing the terms of BRC's $56.7 million contract, nearly half of which was paid to subcontractors.

A few years ago, when it looked as if the presidential library and museum project would be finished long after deadline, CDB officials said they decided they would take another look at the costs when time permitted. The agency has budgeted about $500,000 to look into spending on the project.

Asked whether it's likely BRC will refund any money to the state, Rogers rejected the possibility.

"Nah," he said. "We've performed."

Rogers did say he has some regrets about BRC's expenses, though.

"I would have liked to have spent more," he said.

The entire cost of the Lincoln complex, which includes the museum, the Lincoln Presidential Library, a parking garage and a future park and visitors center, is estimated at $150 million. That compares favorably to the roughly $165 million it cost to build the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, which opened last November in Little Rock.

But clearly, BRC broke the mold, at least as far as industry standards for average exhibit costs per square foot of museum space.

The Lincoln museum includes roughly 40,000 square feet of exhibit space. Divide BRC's $56.7 million by that and BRC's work cost roughly $1,400 per square foot.

In 2002, a large museum planning to add interactive galleries should have expected to pay about $550 per square foot, according to an article in Exhibitionist, the newsletter of the National Association for Museum Exhibition. However, its authors said, "we can be expecting to see thousand-dollar-per-foot exhibits in the near future, if they haven't arrived already."

Susan Burdick, principal of the San Francisco-based Burdick Group, which designed, among other places, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, said high-end museum design work still tends to run between $500 and $700 per square foot. However, she said, entertainment components can double, sometimes triple costs.

Rogers' claim for Springfield's museum has been that it merges "scholarship" with "showmanship."

Regardless, what the city got was a museum whose cost, according to industry insiders, topped the scale.

"For normal museum work, it sounds to me like it was on the higher side," Burdick said.

Of course, Rogers says the Lincoln museum can't be compared to "normal" museums.

"Any comparison breaks down when you (look at) the traditional," he said.

"We wanted to break out of the pattern and change the definition (of museums). We did it. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is much better than it had to be to do something in Springfield."

As for CDB's attempt to get a refund, Burdick said its chances aren't good.

"It's very hard to get your money back (in this industry)," she said.

Pete Sherman can be contacted at 788-1539 or pete.sherman@sj-r.com.

News  Sports  Opinion  Classifieds  Submit an Ad
All Content The State Journal-Register